Bits & P.C.s: Cheap upgrades

One of the easiest and cheapest upgrades that you can do with your computer is to add more memory. If you are using Windows XP, you should have at least 256MB of RAM, even though Microsoft does state that the minimum requirement is 64MB.

With the additional memory, you will find that the computer will run faster and Web pages will take less time to load. The reason for this is that Windows will not have to use the “swap file” as much. program is usually a bunch of smaller programs that are loaded as they are needed or as the amount of memory allows. With more memory, more of the program can be loaded at one time, and the computer does not have to go back to the hard drive to load the other pieces. Since RAM is faster than the hard drive, the program will run faster.

If you are purchasing a newA computer, you may want to include a DVD writer in the system. The drives have dropped in price over the past year to the point that you can find then for $150 or so. As in Beta and VHS, there is more than one format available, a +R and a R. The new drives will write both formats as well as rewritable disks, they will also burn CDs and function as a DVD and CD player. The blank disks are available for about $1 and they hold 4GB of data. Software is usually included to enable you to copy your photos and movies to a DVD that is playable on your home DVD player.

Of course, you will need a hard drive large enough to hold 4GB of data. With new drives out that hold 300GB of storage, the price on the smaller drives has come down. You can find a 60GB drive for $50 while a 160GB drive has been showing up in the ads for $100 after rebates.

If you have two or more computers, you can network them for $30 or less. All you need is a network card in each computer ($15 each or less), and a crossover cable. If you are connecting more than two computers, you will need a network switch ($30) and a cable to connect each computer to it. If the computers are near each other, you may want to consider a KVM switch. This device allows you to use a single keyboard, mouse and monitor to control the computers. A switch for two computers will cost about $75 while a four-computer switch will be about $125.

Some of the local stores will install these items for free when you purchase the item from them. Most are actually user installable as long as you know how to operate a screwdriver. The hard drives usually include the software necessary to copy your old drive over to the new one, so all your old programs should work with little problem. The DVD writer can replace your existing CD drive and will allow you to watch DVD movies on the computer.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times, e-mail, or call 243-1162.

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